Super kingpin fentanyl dealer
Aaron Shamo, who was an Eagle Scout and a Mormon, was found guilty at the end of August in Utah of continuing a criminal enterprise on the darknet and selling fake oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl. He is expected to be sentenced to life imprisonment under the “super kingpin” laws, similar to the sentence given to Ross Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road, similarly for being a super drug kingpin.
Shamo was convicted of several other charges, including money laundering.
The super kingpin charges are used for drug lords, such as El Chapo, where there is evidence established that the person was the principal organizer or administrator of a drug enterprise. The statute requires a term of life imprisonment upon conviction.
Shamo distributed more than 12,000 grams of drugs including fentanyl ordered from China, paid for with Bitcoin.
In addition to distributing drugs, he manufactured pills that he advertised as oxycodone which were in fact fentanyl, and sold them on the darknet using the Canadian illegal marketplace called AlphaBay. He shipped his fentanyl laced pills to various states in the US over the course of over a year.
In addition to fentanyl, Shamo sold rape drugs, MDMA, magic mushrooms and cocaine online and was paid in Bitcoin.
On AlphaBay, his user name was “Pharma-master” and he was in the top 1% of drug traffickers by volume in the world, which means that the Canadian site AlphaBay assisted the trafficking of the largest volume of illegal drugs when it was operational. AlphaBay was the world’s largest criminal marketplace on the darknet, ten times larger than Silk Road. It had servers in Quebec, and was founded and operated by a Canadian named Alexandre Cazes, who amassed a Bitcoin fortune of $23 million despite having no job. He committed suicide in jail. More on the Canadian AlphaBay here.
Stashes of Cash
Shamo used to work at eBay and left that job to become a drug dealer, earning more than $12 million in drug sales online in a short time. Although he was effectively unemployed for almost a two year period, engaged in drug trafficking, he still managed to have a bank account and digital currency exchange accounts that he used to move millions in proceeds of crime and to cash it out.
At the time of his arrest, Shamo had a duffel bag with $429,000 cash stored at his parents’ house, and over $1.2 million in cash in a sock drawer, wrapped in elastic bands. And he had $8.5 million in Bitcoin.
Before his arrest, he bragged on Instagram about his new-found wealth that enabled him to buy a boat, a luxury car, designer clothing and to take expensive trips and sip champagne.
Federal prosecutors alleged that dozens of people died as a result of his drug trafficking. He was only charged in connection with one death, that of 21-year-old Ruslan Klyuev, who died in California after taking a fentanyl-laced pill shipped from Shamo’s team.
At his trial, prosecutors tendered evidence that Shamo received messages from customers that they were getting sick from his pills and instead of fixing the problem, Shamo sent more fentanyl-laced pills to the complaining customers.
Although AlphaBay was the world’s largest darknet criminal enterprise, no natural or legal person has ever been prosecuted in Canada for facilitating AlphaBay, or its now-deceased founder, over the harm caused by such facilitation by the fentanyl crisis. Shamo could not have operated his criminal enterprise without Canada’s AlphaBay.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), IRS’s Criminal Investigation, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Vernon Stejskal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Utah, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Gadd and Kent A. Burggraaf prosecuted the case.